Tourism, quo vadis?

Rosa de los vientos
The European Tourism Day (27th September) brings us to a reflection about this key sector in our economy  (and in our lives, since almost all of us have been or will be tourists at least once in our lives…).

Tourism can be considered, in terms of turnover, job generation, development, impact and promotion, as one of the most powerful industries in the world, especially in Western European countries. Specifically in Spain, tourism has played a key role in opening up the country (in the late 1960’s) and in fostering the economy (in the late 1980’s). This was based on a simple business model: let’s attract our visitors (as many visitors as possible!!) by promoting our natural resources (the sun, the beach) at a very affordable price. Which has inevitably led to the destruction of great parts of our coast, which is now full of terrible skyscrapers… that are empty for at least 6 months of the year!!

This model is no longer sustainable in the long-term, and the different actors in the sector (private companies like airlines, hotels, restaurants, etc. and public entities at national, regional and local level) need to overcome their short-term interests and work out together a new strategy.

How is it possible that in Spain we do not have a specific Ministry for Tourism and not even a Secretary of State? Why are there so many obsolete touristic infrastructures? Why is the solution in times of crisis to keep on pushing the prices down, instead of taking the opportunity to look out for new market niches (like e.g., the organisation of congresses)? Why isn’t there a bigger support for the development of new technologies which are specific for tourism and are developed by the leading companies in this field (which happen to be Spanish)? Where is the sector heading to?

Tourism in Spain has got an incredible potential, not only in terms of visitors or jobs, but also in terms of contribution to the development of our country. It can be the test field for new ICT solutions for Internet (just remember how you booked and organised your vacations 10 years ago, and how you do it now), but also for a more efficient use of energy (have you ever thought how much energy is needed for example in a hotel: heating, air conditioning, kitchen, laundry, swimming pool, spa, etc.?), just to name a few.

In fact, it can have a terrific impact in contributing to reach the goals of the recently approved “Europe 2020 strategy”, which aims to develop a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, by reducing unemployment of women and younger people, reducing CO2 emissions and increase the use of alternative energies, fostering innovation and R&D, and improve education.

We just need a clear strategy and a specific plan, alligned at all levels, to foster tourism. A plan that devotes specific budgets, funding, financing tools and grants to support the development of specific innovations for tourism (in ICT, in energy, in mobility), which can then also be used further in other sectors of activity.

Hopefully we do not miss this opportunity!!